Perhaps it will not shock you to learn this, but Tommy Orange has excellent taste in literature. In a recent interview with The Guardian, he sang the praises of Clarice Lispector’s The Hour of the Star (“It’s short and powerful, and I think everyone should read it and really all of Lispector’s writing.”), Roberto Bolaño’s The Savage Detectives, John Kennedy Toole’s A Confederacy of Dunces, Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar, Louise Erdrich’s The Round House, Franz Kafka’s The Blue Octavo Notebooks, and more recent classics Night Sky with Exit Wounds by Ocean Vuong, Calling a Wolf a Wolf by Kaveh Akbar, Heavy by Kiese Laymon, and particularly Mouthful of Birds by Samanta Schweblin, which he said was the last book to make him cry.
As for the book he found most overrated? On the Road, by Jack Kerouac. “Maybe it made more sense for a different generation,” he said, “but I didn’t find anything impressive about the writing or the story itself.” As your resident Jack Kerouac skeptic, I can only applaud this sort of sentiment from one of the best young writers in the country—particularly one who, like Kerouac, is invested in asking questions about what this country is (but whose answers are more interesting by far).